Summertime Meals with Herbs

For the past few months I’ve been doing classes and workshops on cooking with herbs, and the question I hear most often, usually expressed in plaintive tones, is this: “I just don’t know how to cook with herbs. I don’t know what goes with what.”

A reasonable question, to be sure. But the answer is very simple: Taste it! The whole trick to cooking with herbs is to learn what they taste like, and then use your good cook’s sensibilities to imagine what kind of dish would be enhanced by that flavor.

In my classes I usually bring 10 or 12 plants and pass them around, encouraging everyone to fondle them and then smell their fingers, and to taste a bit of the leaf. I try to include some fairly unusual types along with traditional favorites. And I ask them to consider this: Now, what would that taste go well with?

Golden oregano

Unfortunately, via this newsletter, you and I can’t do that, but I can describe the process in words. Let’s imagine you’re planning a Sunday afternoon picnic in the park, or grilling an evening supper on the patio. And let’s say you have these herbs to work with: lemon thyme, tarragon, golden oregano, and Siam Queen basil. I’ve scattered the photos throughout, primarily for decorative purposes.

Before we start, please keep a couple of things in mind.

(1) I’m not including full recipes; that would make this article too darned long. Today I just want to encourage you to think about how you could add an herbal touch to your usual recipes. But if you’d like more specifics on any one dish, just send me a note by return email; I’ll be happy to help.


(2) The two sample menus are merely to suggest ideas, to get you started. But I don’t think you should do all of these at any one meal; too many different flavors on the same plate can get overwhelming. Just choose one or two for now, then another one or two next time. 

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